Hiking and your health: stay socially distant and work up a sweat

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After spending months cooped up at home, many families are looking for ways to get out of the house, be active, but be safe amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Hiking is one activity that allows the entire family to get outside and it has many health benefits.

Senior Exercise Physiologist Jennifer Price of University Fitness Center says hiking is very beneficial for increasing strength in the muscles, soft tissues and the cardiovascular system. She adds it is also good for improving certain respiratory problems as well.

“It’s a major calorie burn,” explains Robert Mikesell, Senior Exercise Physiologist at University Fitness Center. “If you’re walking on a treadmill flat, at 2 mph, if you’re a 150lb person, you’re going to burn about 170 calories. If you’re hiking at a steep trail at about 45%, you’re going to burn about 1,000 calories.”

Price and Mikesell also stress that hiking is good for your bones, great for fall and balance prevention, and it also engages your brain.

There are mental health benefits linked to increased mood from being outside and getting Vitamin D.

Jim Foster of the Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club says they are seeing a lot of day hiking on the Appalachian Trail, which can make it hard for social distancing.

“New hikers should consider some other excellent trails which may not have as many folks on them,” suggests Foster. “A few to consider are the Darlington Trail, on the border between Cumberland and Perry County; the Victoria Trail, in northern Dauphin County; and the Mid-State Trail, which extends through central PA from the New York border to Maryland.”

Masks are mandated in public places in Pennsylvania, but hiking is a high-intensity activity and the World Health Organization says people should not wear masks when exercising as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.

Price says masks are thought to lose their effectiveness when they get wet and sweaty so she suggests wearing a cloth covering around your neck that you can pull up over your mouth and nose if you encounter other people but have down when hiking alone with family.

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